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Can Multiple Sclerosis Cause Mental Health Problems?

Multiple sclerosis is a long lasting disease that mainly affects the nervous system of the patient. The three organs of central nervous system mainly involved are the optic nerves that supply to eyes, the spinal cord and the brain. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease meaning that the body’s own immune system is responsible for the causation of this disease. The immune system attacks the myelin sheath covering the nerves. This leads to demyelination. Due to this the nerves become bare and prone to damage. As time passes the nerves get damaged and then there is problem in proper functioning of the nerves.

Can Multiple Sclerosis Cause Mental Health Problems?

Can Multiple Sclerosis Cause Mental Health Problems?

Multiple sclerosis mainly affects the central nervous system and hence it is obvious that this disease can cause mental health problems without a doubt. (1) The major mental health problems that are caused by multiple sclerosis are:

Depression In Multiple Sclerosis

People with multiple sclerosis are three times more prone to suffer from depression as compared to the general population. Almost 50% of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis have depression.

Depression is due to inflammatory process in the patients who have relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. But in patients who are in secondary progressive phase of multiple sclerosis, depression is due to feeling of guilt, helplessness, worthlessness and dependence on other people.

Such patients many times have suicidal tendencies so proper and prompt treatment must be initiated. Antidepressants are used for the patients and also cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful in such patients. In cognitive behavioral therapy, the patient is taught different methods to shift the negative thoughts and beliefs that lead to mental stress.

Anxiety In Multiple Sclerosis

In people with multiple sclerosis, depression and anxiety go hand in hand for almost half of the people. People who suffer with depression are bound to suffer from anxiety too. In a few cases, people may have anxiety alone with no depression. When the patient has anxiety, he/she shows symptoms like- increased use of alcohol, reduced social interaction, more aches and pains and hampered cognitive skills.

Such patients are treated carefully and with proper care and attention. Treatment consists of behavioral modification therapies and also certain exercises and therapies to build up tolerance and confidence of the patient. Medications are also given in extreme cases.

Stress In Multiple Sclerosis

The stress related to multiple sclerosis is different than the everyday stress that the patient faces. Due to multiple sclerosis related stress, there is exacerbation of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and when the stress reduces, the symptoms also become less intensified.

Due to stress, the patient becomes prone to certain illnesses like diabetes, depression and heart diseases. Irritability and mood swings are also seen.

Cognitive Changes In Multiple Sclerosis

Cognition is higher-level function of brain and it deals with following aspects:

  • Ability to learn new things
  • Ability to remember new things
  • Problem solving skills
  • Decision making
  • Focusing
  • Understanding and learning a new language
  • Word finding
  • Attention
  • Concentration
  • Information processing

More than 50% of the patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis are prone to have cognitive disabilities. The symptoms may be mild or they may be severe and may impair more than two aspects of cognition.

Symptoms that points towards cognitive impairment:

  • Problem with school performance
  • Difficulty in finding right words while speaking
  • Problem in remembering the tasks
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Difficulty in coping up with daily routine activities
  • Difficulty in speaking or keeping up with the conversation

What Is The Treatment?

Treatment options include:

Timely Rehearsal: Here, the patient is made to repeat and process the given information at intervals in order to improve the information storage.

Repeating: The patient is asked to repeat what has been told and this helps in improving attention and memory.

Using Different Methods Of Learning: In order to make things easier to remember, the patient is asked to use different methods together like seeing it, saying it, writing it down and then doing it. This may take more time for each task, but the patient improves gradually over time.


Multiple sclerosis specially affects the central nervous system and hence it is clear that the patient will have mental or emotional health problems. The most common mental health disease that the patient with multiple sclerosis goes through is depression. After depression, the next common mental problem is anxiety. Mostly people with depression are likely to suffer from anxiety too, but not in all cases, so patients with multiple sclerosis are given extra care and attention to look out for the signs and symptoms of mental diseases.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2706287/

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 19, 2019

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